Video Games: A Glance in the Mirror


The phrase ‘rules are made to be broken’ is probably more meaningful than most realise. In Catholic tradition there is an understanding that charity always trumps any particular “rule”, or way of life.

I decided to break my rule of “one hour of video games a day” so that I could spend the night with my roommate during his birthday doing what he wanted to do.

I have given much thought to the conundrum of our continually blossoming habit of electronic entertainment.

Though I err on the side of less is more, and none is probably the best, I can see some redeeming qualities.

There is most forward in my mind the capacity of video games for bonding. Also, there is a certain form of excitement and feeling of accomplishment when all goes well. In addition there is a relaxing component to most video games that is desirable and there is intriguing research being done on the possibility of video games to help minimize PTSD. Most gamers will be quick to point out the artistic and creative elements that go in to making a game.

I do not consider video games to be bad by nature, but I regard them with great caution because of their effects on the human being. While it is true that many people can enjoy this entertainment in healthy moderation, I have seen far more of the opposite side of the spectrum: addiction.

I will not be surprised when authorities state that an enormous percentage of my generation (20-25 year olds) and the younger generations are bearing the burden of both video game addictions as well as pornography addictions.

The latter has already proven to be the case.

Someone once said to me, “There’s nothing wrong with playing video games all day.” When I heard this statement I did not respond outwardly, but internally I felt a great pain in my heart:

There is something wrong with playing video games all day.

The reason is not because of some silly argument like “video games are bad” or other related ideas, but stems more from our human side of the experience. There is something wrong with spending a sizable portion of a lifetime mindlessly manipulating two thumb sticks and some buttons in order to accomplish, arguably, next to no real world change or accomplishment.

Playing eight hours a day to achieve the highest level and the best items in World of Warcraft, for example, will be of no use on a person’s resume and in addition will probably lead to behaviours that are exactly the opposite of what employers are looking for.

Every addiction wears away a person’s capacity for self-motivation, clear and honest self-reflection, positive self-image, the capacity for active and lively compassion, as well as a number of other ramifications.

For example: my physiotherapist once told me that she is finding an increasing number of young individuals who now have the spine of a fifty year old. Hours and hours bent over playing games has warped their spines into an unnatural position. The negative results of a lack of exercise should be no mystery to us. Yet, few activities lend themselves to total inactivity more than video games and television.

If our physical bodies are ailing from this habit, what about our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual lives?

We can be assured that these suffer just as much.

I resent the ongoing movement which claims that playing video games is just “another way to spend your life”, because we might as well say that being an alcoholic is just another way to spend your life.

Even the best athletes do not practice nearly the same amount of time as many of the gamers I know spend playing games.

In order to believe that it is harmless spending ten hours a day playing games, I must also believe that human life is meaningless.

For how else could I rationalize such enormous amounts of valuable time to doing, essentially, nothing?

We all need relaxation, we all need a day every once in a while to just “veg”. I am not against that. On occasion I will spend lots of time playing games with my friends. For many people it is not an occasional day to veg, but every day off work, every half day after work, is spent with proximity to computers and consoles.

It is, in the fullest sense of the word, a waste; it is a waste of the awesome potential we have as human beings, having free thought, the ability to think, to be creative, to ponder the mysteries of the universe.

We are throwing away our capacity to reach out, to be loved, to love.

We grow in knowledge and wisdom in the areas of life where we spend the most of our time.

It is no surprise that those who spend more time on game consoles than in full time jobs have poor social skills. Many games employ active social elements in their games, but these interactions are not what any reasonable person would call deep or profound. Many of these gamers are very capable of having like minded friends, but their capacity to be strong, loving components of these relationships, or to be the stronger and more caring half of the relationship, is lacking.

I have seen the bonding that occurs around an X-Box console, and it is lacking in comparison to real and authentic conversation and mutual discovery. I have seen it a thousand times: it is impossible to have any meaningful conversation while one or an other participant of the conversation is engrossed in a video game, television show, or their cell phone.

They simply are not listening fully, and that is an awful person to have a conversation with.

It could be said that without this form of entertainment some people would never get to bond.

While this may be partially true, holding this opinion will only help to further isolate such people into these pseudo-relationships. If a relationship can start over video games then that is a good thing, but for it to grow it must never remain there indefinitely.

Video games have become a little nook to hide in where we can reside instead of facing the world, its challenges, and the very real adventure of creating new friendships and fostering them, of taking risks and leading a meaningful life.


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